Online or Off: What’s the Cheapest Way to Go Back to School?

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  • When people harp on the merits of online programs, they often cite the affordability of an online program over a traditional one. Things like commute times, the ability to maintain a full-time job, and highly flexible schedules are touted as benefits for those who take courses online. Of course, depending on the program you want to enter, an online course may not be possible. However, many universities offer a combination of online and offline coursework to help you obtain your degree.

    The Cost of Online Education

    An online education is supposed to cost less since the university doesn’t have the same sort of building and resource requirements, so they can typically schedule more classes at the same time. This frees the school up to offer a wide number of courses for online and traditional students. Generally, students pay a slightly lower tuition rate, but this may not apply to a top-ranked public or private university. Often, online courses have the same tuition rates unless they are a dedicated online school. In that case, many online-only schools have lower overall costs. 

    The Cost of Transportation

    Another factor that affects online and traditional courses is the fact that students don’t have to commute to an online class. This can save gas money and also result in time saved for busy students. Students can get ready for work, spend an hour on a lecture and not have to worry about walking to a parking lot, or leaving enough time to get from the school to their office. This allows students to make better use of their time and avoid the time and commuting costs of an offline education. Overall, an online course can save a significant amount of money in transportation costs and parking fees. Many universities require students to have parking permits that can cost several hundred dollars per year.

    Books and Materials

    The books and materials required for an online and traditional course are often different. An online course generally provides a lot of the materials online which can save substantial money on the cost of books and resources. A traditional course generally uses a textbook, although some schools are starting to provide students with digital downloads of textbooks and there are also textbook rental services that can help you reduce the cost of a traditional education. Other factors that go into the overall resource cost is the fact that online courses often provide additional online resources, and many traditional courses neglect to include these components. This often results in a better overall value for online education programs.

    The Type of Program

    Some programs are not suitable to supported on an online system. Music is still one of those programs where it is best to work with a physical instructor. Another program where it can be difficult to complete it completely online is a physical therapy education program. These programs require hands-on work, but a great doctor of a physical therapy program may have had the option to take at least some of their coursework online. This helps to reduce the costs associated with the degree, and it can help to make it easier to complete a program while working full time. Ultimately, students have to make a choice that makes the most sense of their lifestyle and situation.

    How you spend your hard-earned money on your education is up to you. However, it’s important to look into the program you want to go into and check the reputation of the faculty and staff. This goes for both online and offline programs. Many online programs are actually better than traditional ones and vice versa.

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